Saturday, December 31, 2005

Boing Boing: "Outlandish" Tacoma, WA house due for demolition
From Mystery Reader comes this saga of a house whose unique appearance is underappreciated. Needless to say, there are photos.

A county judge in Tacoma, WA has declared Vladmimir Deriugin Jr.'s crazy-looking house to be a danger, and has ordered it to be repaired or demolished...The late-1880s-era house, which Deriugin dreamed of encasing in concrete and using as the core for a 500-foot office and condominium tower, will be torn down within the next couple of months, Deriugin said. - News - Homeowners' Associations Want To Ban Sex Offenders
Fred Pilot sent this link along. This is a good test of the limits of private government to exclude undesirables. I keep hearing from HOA advocates that, oh, no, there are no secessionist tendencies in privatopia. I think one theory is that excluding people can be a cheap way to enhance property values.

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Homeowners' associations are taking measures to keep their residents safe as whole communities shut their doors to convicted sex offenders. Local governments are working to evict sex offenders such as ----- because the house where he lives is too close to a public school. "I'll be homeless because I don't have enough money," ----- said. While courts decide whether ----- can be evicted, some Ohio communities are trying to make sure he can never move into their neighborhoods. Several Ohio homeowners' associations are trying to ban sexual predators from living in their communities. The Columbus Board of Realtors is not sure if the associations can legally impose such restrictions.
"As long as you follow the law by registering, then that homeowners' association probably really doesn't have anything to say about it," said Doug McCloud, the 2005 president of the Columbus Board of Realtors. So far, these bans have not been tested in court. Some Ohio associations said they just want to protect children, but some people wonder if a sex offender ban could affect property values.
New Year Brings Array of New State Laws - Yahoo! News
It's nice to know our public servants are looking out for us. Here's my favorite, right here in Illinois:
Illinois approved a state amphibian, the Eastern tiger salamander, after it won 51 percent of Internet voters, beating the gray tree frog and the American toad. "The toad and the frog kind of split up the vote and allowed the salamander to slip in," Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn said.
United Press International - NewsTrack - Home builders try extras to lure customers
The evidence is mounting that the new housing market is maxed out, and we already know that resales are softer than a few months ago.
WASHINGTON, Dec. 31 (UPI) -- A glut in homes for sale is prompting Washington, D.C.-area home builders to offer extras to snag customers. Daniel Oppenheim, an analyst with Banc of America Securities, said he's seen freebies worth up to 5 percent of a sales price. That includes kitchen upgrades, interest rate locks and coverage of closing costs or mortgage payments. There are more than twice the number of homes for sale this year than last.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Holy cows remain subject of legal fight
Another non-HOA story concerning differences of opinion regarding what constitutes a family member...moo.
Buffalo, New York - A Hindu couple whose sacred cows were banished from the western New York village of Angelica in 2003 have renewed their fight to bring them home. Stephen and Linda Voith are appealing a state Supreme Court decision that sided with Angelica officials, who cited rules governing farm animals within village limits. The Voiths, members of the Krishna Consciousness branch of Hinduism, insist that their six cows are not farm animals but part of the family and integral to the practice of their religion that protects and celebrates cows.
US home sales data signal end to boom

Not to talk down the US economy in unpatriotic fashion, mind you, but there are lot of unsold HOA and condo units on the market.

Sales of existing US homes dropped 1.7 percent in November while the stock of unsold homes on the market climbed to a 19-year high, the National Association of Realtors said. Admitting a slowdown is now under way, the industry group said existing home sales dropped to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 6.97 million last month, the lowest since March. "Housing activity has peaked," said David Lereah, chief economist for the association. But he insisted the market will not implode after years of red-hot growth. "There are no balloons popping." Inventories of unsold homes increased 1.2 percent to 2.9 million, the most since April 1986.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

'Inversion' in Bond Rates Hits Stocks: The yield on the 10-year Treasury note drops to a level at or below those of shorter-term securities, in what may foreshadow an economic slump.

I don't pretend to understand this tea-leaf reading, but it sounds ominous. Check out what one analyst said about the effect on the housing market. On the other hand, Alan Greenspan says this is not a problem at all. So go figure.

Normally, longer-term bonds pay more than shorter-term issues to compensate investors for the risk of tying up their money for an extended period. When long- and short-term interest rates converge, it often is a sign that bond investors believe the economy will slow ? so they're locking in long-term yields in anticipation that rates overall soon will level off or even head lower...The 10-year T-note yield, a benchmark for mortgages and other long-term rates, ended at 4.34% on Tuesday, down from 4.37% on Friday and the lowest since Sept. 30. By comparison, the Treasury sold new six-month bills at an annualized yield of 4.35% on Tuesday. And the two-year T-note ended at 4.34%, down from 4.36% on Friday...The last time rates inverted was in the second half of 2000. By spring of 2001, the U.S. economy was in recession...AIG SunAmerica's Cheah said he was more pessimistic about the economy because he worried about the effects of a rate inversion on the housing market. Banks, he said, may no longer find it profitable enough to make long-term loans such as conventional mortgages. "I'm betting that ? many banks will stop lending to the housing market," triggering broader economic weakness, he said.

Monday, December 26, 2005

PJM News - Exec to Open Aerospace Venture (6778237/AP)
Further progress toward the privatization of space travel? Got this link from Instapundit.

KENT, Wash., Dec. 26, 2005 (AP Online delivered by Newstex) -- (NASDAQ:AMZN) founder Jeff Bezos expects a rocket-ship complex for his aerospace venture Blue Origin to open early next year. City records show that an office and warehouse he's revamping in this south Seattle suburb will be used to design and build spacecraft and engines. Blue Origin has released few details about the project. But a Texas newspaper editor who interviewed Bezos earlier this year said the billionaire talked sending a spaceship into orbit that launches and lands vertically, like a rocket, and eventually building spaceships that can orbit the Earth _ possibly leading to permanent colonies in space.
Kansas man appeals ticket over anti-war signs
Not in an HOA, either. This happened in...

PRAIRIE VILLAGE, Kan. - A suburban Kansas City man is appealing a ticket Prairie Village gave him for homemade yard signs opposing the war in Iraq. The American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas and Western Missouri is helping David Quinly appeal the citation in Johnson County District Court. Quinly sought the ACLU's help after losing an appeal in municipal court. At issue is a Prairie Village ordinance prohibiting signs bigger than 5 square feet and limiting the total area of temporary signs displayed on a property to 10 square feet. Signs can't be up more than 60 days.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Abiding by rules of your neighbor: Disputes increase as more live under home associations -
From Nancy Levy comes this link to a Christmas day story about conflict in HOAs. It is worth reading and has quotes from me, Bob Nelson, and other suspects. Unfortunately it starts with the "good fences make good neighbors" line. I have to digress here. I wish reporters would give poor old Robert Frost a rest and switch to somebody more pithy, such as Edgar Allen Poe. How about starting a story on HOAs with a long quote from Poe that is appropriate to the subject, such as "...the Prince Prospero was happy and dauntless and sagacious. When his dominions were half depopulated, he summoned to his presence a thousand hale and light-hearted friends from among the knights and dames of his court, and with these retired to the deep seclusion of one of his castellated abbeys. This was an extensive and magnificent structure, the creation of the prince's own eccentric yet august taste. A strong and lofty wall girdled it in. This wall had gates of iron. The courtiers, having entered, brought furnaces and massy hammers and welded the bolts. They resolved to leave means neither of ingress or egress to the sudden impulses of despair or of frenzy from within. The abbey was amply provisioned. With such precautions the courtiers might bid defiance to contagion. The external world could take care of itself. In the meantime it was folly to grieve, or to think." That's from The Masque of the Red Death.

See? Now here you have wall, gates, authoritarian government, and separation of the fortunate few from the rabble. That would get the reader's wheels turning. But I digress. Here's a passage from the Baltimore Sun story (did you know that Poe lived and died in Baltimore?):


Favored by developers and local governments, community associations are also popular among home-buyers because they usually help keep up the neighborhood. But they can be nightmares for the unwary, who learn the hard way that their homes are not their castles. And politics in homeowner or condo groups can sometimes make the former Soviet Union seem democratic. Associations represent a "de facto privatization of local government," says Evan McKenzie, a political scientist at University of Illinois, Chicago. The problem is, he says, these entities designed for economic purposes often conflict with the civil liberties and accountability Americans expect...Half of all new housing built since 1980 has been in community associations, estimates Robert H. Nelson, a professor in the School of Public Policy at the University of Maryland and author of a recent book on the phenomenon. The growth of what he calls "private neighborhoods" is transforming how people live and govern themselves, he suggests. "Americans may want less government," says Nelson, "but that's at a higher level. At a lower level, they want more government. They're voting with their feet."
Condo alliance heads to capital -- Coalition targets homeowner association laws

Fred Pilot sent this link. Some sort of evil pop-up ad that will not die goes with the link, but it's a good story. The emergence of this new group comes on the heels of legislative successes over the last two sessions by owner activist groups like Cyber Citizens for Justice. Note that the Coalition's policy goals amount to a rollback of some of those very victories. Anybody who has information one way or another on this group is invited to comment.

The newly formed statewide Coalition of Community Associations is readying for its first descent on Tallahassee. With representatives from nine counties, including Palm Beach and Broward, the coalition is looking to spread its influence to legislators who write homeowner and condo association law. The group formed earlier this year as a way to counteract the influential consumer group Cyber Citizens for Justice, which advocates for homeowners battling their associations...For a coalition that believes in less state intervention, this spring's legislative session will be the first test of its political prowess. Some of the issues the group will pursue: ensuring a board's ability to place a lien on owners who fail to pay dues, eliminating mandatory mediation for homeowners and boards and adding standards of objectivity to the condo ombudsman's office.

Judge upholds Chicago's pigeon ban
A federal judge has ruled that Chicago's ban on keeping racing pigeons is constitutional.

The article explains that Chicago adopted the ban in 2003 and is the only city in the nation with a total ban on domestic pigeons. Somebody forgot to tell the fifty billion wild pigeons that are pooping all over the city. Which is why I think this is an uncommonly stupid law. It's about as effective as Chicago's gun ban.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

A Man's Home May Be His Castle, but Only to a Point
Here's a link to the New York Times article on HOAs, with a quote or two from me:

To Evan C. McKenzie, an associate professor of political science at the University of Illinois at Chicago, the squabble over the house is yet another expression of "privatopias": the growing power of homeowner associations that, he said, are "completely transforming the definition of home ownership."

Professor McKenzie, author of "Privatopia: Homeowner Associations and the Rise of Residential Private Government," noted that in a regular municipality, the Duffields' application to build a 72,000-square-foot house "would have to be evaluated according to the guidelines that applied at the time." But because of the power wielded by homeowner associations, he said, the Bryan Ranch residents were able to "basically move the goal posts."

"Home ownership has always meant a sense of dominion and control over the intimate parts of one's life," he said. "But when you buy into a homeowners association, it's a different form of government. It's not a liberal democracy."

Friday, December 23, 2005

BREITBART.COM - New Home Sales Plummet in November
It seems obvious that the real estate bubble is losing air in a number of markets. Yet for some reason this has become a partisan issue with some conservatives, who argue on the radio and in the press that anybody who points out that fact is talking down the economy in order to help Democrats in the 2006 elections. If there is a more ridiculous argument, I haven't heard it. Facts are facts, and it sure looks to me as though the housing market is in for some tougher times. I don't see a collapse, but there is no way the insane prices in some markets can keep going up, and that spells trouble for some people who are betting everything they have on continued housing price inflation.

Sales of new homes plunged in November by the largest amount in nearly 12 years, providing the most dramatic evidence yet that the red hot housing market over the last five years is starting to cool down. The Commerce Department reported Friday that new single-family homes were sold at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.245 million units last month, a drop of 11.3 percent from October, when sales had surged to an all-time high. Last month's decline was even bigger than the 8.7 percent drop-off that Wall Street analysts had been expecting. While sales of both new and existing homes are still on track to set records for a fifth straight year in 2005, analysts are forecasting sales will decline in 2006 as the housing boom quiets down.

Private Cities: Global and Local Perspectives... now out, selling for a mere $130.00 (!) That is the new book edited by Chris Webster, Georg Glasze, and Klaus Frantz about the internationalization of the gated community/private neighborhood is out. I have a chapter in it. The Amazon link is here.
City probes neighborhood's upkeep - The Clarion-Ledger
Fred Pilot sent this piece about "Who picks up maintenance bill after homeowners group dissolves," a question I think a lot of municipalities will need to answer as the years go on...
Home Is Where The Rules Are
Bob Nelson's Op-Ed in the Washington Post, giving a boost to his new pro-HOA book...thanks to Nancy Levy for the link.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Our Continental superiors leave the homeless to die in the streets?
People walk past as a homeless person takes cover from the cold on a Paris sidewalk November 28, 2005, as six homeless have died in France since the arrival of winter temperatures.
Mais non! This cannot be! First the riots in the suburbs, and now homeless corpses frozen to the sidewalk. I thought we boorish, selfish Americans were supposed to be taking instructions in social policy from Les Francais. And their enlightened approach was to be the core of the policies of the European Union, wasn't it?
Residents Put Gates On Road
Fred Pilot sent this link to a story of an HOA that decided to fort up by building the Black Gates of Mordor at the entrance, but unfortunately didn't actually, technically, uh...own the street they tried to close. Oops.

WESLEY CHAPEL -- In their effort to privatize their streets, Grand Oaks residents have built a new gatehouse and installed black metal gates at the subdivision's entrance on County Road 54. But, according to Pasco County, Grand Oaks' streets remain public and can't be gated. "They can put up the structures. They can't close the gates," said Richard Sliz, real estate manager for Pasco County, which officially owns Grand Oaks' streets. Grand Oaks is one of a handful of Pasco communities trying to remove their streets from the public domain.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

How Condops Differ From Condops - New York Times
You learn something new every day. Nancy Levy just provided me with this neologism: "condops." Check it out.

Arthur I. Weinstein, a Manhattan lawyer who is vice president of the Council of New York Cooperatives and Condominiums, said that while the term condop was originally coined to describe a legal combination of co-op and condo, the term now seems to have morphed into a way of describing - usually for marketing purposes - a relatively unusual type of co-op. When the term condop is used in the legal sense, Mr. Weinstein said, it describes a building (or a complex of buildings) that is part co-op and part condo. Usually, the entire residential portion of the building (which contains co-op apartments) is legally one condo unit, while the commercial and professional spaces are owned as one or more additional condo units, he said.

Owners paying price at condos without financial reserves

Fred Pilot sent this in. I think inability to pay for major repairs will soon become a big issue for many condos and HOAs. Here's an example. People don't want to pay today for somebody else's room ten years down the road. The article lays that out clearly. Then the inevitable big ticket repair comes along, and it's special assessment time to the tune of about five digits.

But note the incredible comment from Florida's condobudsman Virgil Rizzo, to wit: "I'm against reserves, it puts money into coffers that directors can [illegally] get into," said Virgil Rizzo, the state condo ombudsman. I think that attitude is fairly widespread, but it is a bit strong coming from the condo ombudsman, I think. Distrust of the BOD is yet another reason people vote against assessments that are high enough to maintain adequate reserves. And I suppose all those folks will be quoting Rizzo at the next annual meeting. But look: if Rizzo believes we can't trust directors to handle reserves that are intended for common area repair, and if taking care of the common area is their main function (as it is), then it seems to me he should be working to abolish condos instead of taking a job that is intended to make them work better--shouldn't he? Because what is saying is that we can't trust volunteer directors to carry out their most basic responsiblity (property maintenance), and the only way to fix that problem is to deprive the corporation of a sinking fund. They would just operate on a hand-to-mouth basis, because the directors can't be trusted with anything more than that. That to me is the clear implication of his statement. Any comments on that?

Monday, November 21, 2005

Fairies stop developers' bulldozers in their tracks

Here's a new anti-development strategy from Great Britain that US preservationists and Wal-Mart haters could try:

VILLAGERS who protested that a new housing estate would ?harm the fairies? living in their midst have forced a property company to scrap its building plans and start again.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

New-housing market slumping
Building starts and permits drop across the nation

Seems to be a consensus emerging that the housing boom is about over. Better hurry up and buy that $600,000 condo in Fresno with an interest-only variable rate loan before it's too late.

Any doubt that the national housing market is beginning to cool disappeared yesterday, according to some experts. New housing starts and building permits nationwide both saw sharp declines in October, according to data released yesterday by the Commerce Department. It's likely that higher mortgage rates are finally taking their toll on a housing boom that has lasted more than five years, far longer than many expected

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Commission on the Intelligence Capabilities of the United States Regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction
This has nothing to do with HOAs. I just want to publicize this report from the Silverman-Robb Commission, so that people can put in perspective the recent revival of the "Bush lies" rhetoric about the Iraq war and the missing WMDs.

I have posted here (italicized below) the main conclusion of the Commission, which had all the President's daily briefings and other intelligence he relied on. See if you can find there, or anywhere in the report, any indication that President Bush lied to the public or browbeat the intelligence agencies of the USA, France, Great Britain, Russia, and Italy into submission. What you find instead is a conclusion that US intelligence agencies believed, and told the President and members of Congress, that the WMDs were there.

That's why the President believed Saddam had the weapons. That's why most of the Republicans and Democrats in both houses of Congress believed it, too.

Now, Democrats are claiming that Bush somehow "knew" the weapons weren't there, but said they were there, so he could get a vote for war. This is completely implausible. How could Bush have known the weapons weren't there, when the agencies he relied upon were telling him the weapons were there? Upon what factual basis would he have disbelieved this overwhelming consensus?

And if he believed what the intelligence agencies were telling him--that the weapons were there--then he wasn't lying, was he?

So, here's the main conclusion of the Commission:

On the brink of war, and in front of the whole world, the United States government asserted that Saddam Hussein had reconstituted his nuclear weapons program, had biological weapons and mobile biological weapon production facilities, and had stockpiled and was producing chemical weapons. All of this was based on the assessments of the U.S. Intelligence Community. And not one bit of it could be confirmed when the war was over.
While the intelligence services of many other nations also thought that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, in the end it was the United States that put its credibility on the line, making this one of the most public--and most damaging--intelligence failures in recent American history.
This failure was in large part the result of analytical shortcomings; intelligence analysts were too wedded to their assumptions about Saddam's intentions. But it was also a failure on the part of those who collect intelligence--CIA's and the Defense Intelligence Agency 's (DIA) spies, the National Security Agency 's (NSA) eavesdroppers, and the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency 's (NGA) imagery experts.1 In the end, those agencies collected precious little intelligence for the analysts to analyze, and much of what they did collect was either worthless or misleading. Finally, it was a failure to communicate effectively with policymakers; the Intelligence Community didn't adequately explain just how little good intelligence it had--or how much its assessments were driven by assumptions and inferences rather than concrete evidence.
Mold readings spark health concerns in New Orleans
Fred Pilot sent this along. This mold situation is predictable, and I question the wisdom of the local officials saying it's nothing to worry about. But given the abysmal record of New Orleans officials regarding public safety before and after Hurricane Katrina, maybe it's no surprise. They didn't even use their fleet of municipal and school buses to evacuate people from nursing homes and hospitals, and predictably a lot of those who died were in such locations. Does New Orleans get the prize for "Worst Municipal Government in the United States"?

NEW ORLEANS, Nov 16 (Reuters) - Take a flooded building in steamy New Orleans, and within days dark mold blooms on every surface, bringing the stench of decay to much of the hurricane-hit city. Authorities insist the mold is not dangerous to most people, while encouraging residents to wear masks and protective clothing when clearing their homes, especially with dusty work like removing drywall. But an environmental group, alarmed by readings that show mold spores at extraordinarily high levels, said on Wednesday that approach is not enough.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Wild pigs plague Fort Myers community

Thanks to Shu Bartholomew for this mouth-watering story. My son and I would love to have this problem in our neighborhood. We could fix it with the Ruger .44 Magnum rifle. As Ted Nugent says, "Kill it and grill it." Seriously, wild pigs are nasty. They are dangerous and they destroy the habitat by rooting up the ground. Most states have open season and no limit on them because once they get established they are a nuisance. But they do taste good, so let's look on the bright side here.

Dozens of wild pigs are prowling the lawns and streets of Cross Creek condominiums, prompting fearful homeowners to stay indoors after dark and keep a close eye on their pets..."I saw them coming down the cart path one day," she said. "They were about 500 pounds and there were five or six of them. Some were piglets. You just don't know what you will see in your back yard. We are taking a chance just walking on the cart path."

Monday, November 14, 2005

Ontario mom faces $2M libel suit for website about problems in neighbourhood
Can you say "SLAPP suit, Canadian style," eh?
In other news, I'm not able to post from my office because the new computer the university set me up with has now decided to display the blue screen of death instead of booting up. This is not supposed to happen anymore now that we have OSX, right?

CP) - A stay-at-home mother of three who created a website to alert the government about allegedly dangerous environmental problems in her southwestern Ontario neighbourhood is facing a $2 million libel suit by one of the developers she reported on. Louisette Lanteigne of Waterloo, Ont., said she grew sick of what she saw during construction in her new subdivision and what appeared to be questionable building practices and labour-code violations.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Bringing a Law School Down
Should Ave Maria be part of a "Catholic Jonestown"?

That's a bit strong, isn't it? Instead of "Catholic Jonestown," how about "Catholicville"? This is about the goings-on at Ave Maria Law School, recently accredited by the American Bar Association and now perhaps headed to what looks to me like a Catholic planned community. I wonder if the HOA will be "Catholics only"...

Mr. Monaghan, the founder of Domino's Pizza and the school's principal benefactor, has announced plans to build a large Catholic university outside Naples, Fla., along with a residential community. (The ground-breaking ceremony for Ave Maria Town, as it will be called, was delayed indefinitely by the recent hurricane.) Will the law school move to Naples too, from Ann Arbor? The school's dean, Bernard Dobranski, acknowledges that the board is "open to consideration of the idea."
Condo's whopping ads
a big headache

Nancy Levy sent this story about an enterprising condo association:

A Rego Park condo is exploiting a loophole that allows it to transform its residential tower into a gigantic billboard - pocketing thousands of dollars - while the city is powerless to do much about it. When two racy lingerie ads were recently mounted on scaffolding on both sides of Queens Blvd. Tower - a 16-story building overlooking the Long Island Expressway - the condo's management was given five citations and ordered to remove the ads within 35 days. It complied just before an Oct. 13 deadline. But shortly afterward, another 100-foot-tall sign popped up on the west side of the building, this time promoting the upcoming "Harry Potter" movie.

Iowa Town Has Tough Time Finding Eligible Voters
Sounds like an HOA election, but it is a municipality of sorts.

ANAMOSA, IA. (AP) -- Anamosa, Iowa, has found out how difficult it can be to fill a vacant city council seat -- especially when most of the residents are behind bars. The city's Ward Two includes the Anamosa State Penitentiary. That left just 58 non-inmates in the district. Even though the city has grown, Ward Two only had 65 registered voters in Tuesday's election. In Tuesday's election there were only three votes, all of them write-ins.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Privatize Fannie and Freddie

Here's a commentary from National Review Online:

Confronted by a real problem related to the semi-governmental status of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, Congress is opting for strict new regulations that amount to a de facto nationalization of these government-sponsored enterprises. The best solution would be precisely the opposite — full privatization. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, were they to go private, would be normal, private companies in all respects, no longer receiving any special government benefits nor subject to special regulatory restraints.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

New law creates changes for homeowner associations

North Carolina joins the HOA reform parade with this bill, news of which is sent from Fred Pilot:

A new law will create some big changes for homeowner associations across the state. The number of homeowner associations has exploded in the last five years. More than half of all homeowners in North Carolina now belong to an association. The law puts a cap on fines and fees the association can charge.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Escaped pit bulls attack six people, terrorize neighborhood; child critically injured

This horrible event happened in an HOA not far from where we live. I was arguing with a couple of animal-lovers a few weeks ago about pit pulls. I think they should be banned because they are unpredicable. Of course the dog lovers cling to the notion that there are no bad dogs, only bad owners. But this story is one of many where the pit bulls were being treated well and went nuts anyway. Go ahead, pit bull lovers. Send me your hate mail. I think they should be outlawed. If I had my way you'd have to switch to Rottweillers.

CARY, Ill. ? A 10-year-old boy was in critical condition Sunday after three pit bulls escaped from a home and went on a rampage, attacking six people before police shot and killed dogs, authorities said.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

San Francisco Examiner:Mullin: Home groups need more oversight

Fred Pilot sent this along:

SAN MATEO ? Concerned that homeowners associations are wielding too much unchecked power over the residents they regulate, Assemblyman Gene Mullin is sponsoring legislation calling for more state regulation on common interest developments. Mullin scheduled a hearing for 6 p.m. tonight in San Mateo City Council Chambers on a bill to establish a state ombudsman to help association officers and residents better understand the rules that govern the developments, which account for one-quarter of the state?s housing stock. ?There is no oversight of these organizations, which wield considerable power over people?s lives and homes,? Mullin said in a prepared statement.

Residents of Paris Suburbs at Gangs' Mercy
This is quite an indictment of the French version of suburbanization. Maybe building huge public housing complexes in the suburbs and filling them up with welfare-dependent and unassimilated Muslim immigrants isn't such a good idea.

Whatever their motivation, youths leading the violence that in 10 nights has spread across France sow fear, anger and frustration among their fellow residents of "Les Cites" — grim, public housing estates on the outskirts of French cities heavily populated by poor Arab and black Africans. Some officials suspect the unrest that reached into Paris proper early Sunday has in part been instigated by gangs hoping to turn their neighborhoods into no-go zones for police so drug trafficking and racketeering can thrive.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Mayor Takes Government 'Into the Neighborhood' With New Outreach Team

Nancy Levy sent this "wonderful day in the neighborhood," Mr. Rogers-esque piece from Louisville, Kentucky. I guess condos and hoas aren't just for Florida and California anymore...

LOUISVILLE) -- Mayor Jerry Abramson has announced that citizens can be more connected to government through a new team created within the Louisville Metro Department of Neighborhoods. Called Neighborhood Outreach Liaisons, the five-person team will empower neighborhoods with an array of community-building tools...The Neighborhood Liaisons’ primary purpose is to connect the community with government and make government more accessible. Outreach programs include:

Assisting residents to start or rejuvenate neighborhood, homeowner or condominium associations

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Heading for DC
I'm off to DC tomorrow (Thursday) for two events. I'm on a panel at The Urban Institute where we will be discussing Bob Nelson's book Private Neighborhoods, along with Bob himself, Tom Skiba from CAI, and others. Saturday Bob and I and Lee Fennell and others are on a panel at the meeting of the Association for Public Policy and Management. I think the focus of both will be Bob's controversial proposal to replace existing neighborhoods with HOAs, and let them replace municipalities. - News - Condo Complex Sues To Evict Dying Dog
Nancy Levy sent along this story about a condo association with a heart of lead.

HOUSTON -- Most pet owners would do just about anything to protect their four-legged friend. A Houston-area man is taking his condo complex to court in an effort to keep his dying dog at home, the KPRC Troubleshooters reported Monday. 12-year-old Monty is a golden retriever with a good life. "His main job is sleeping. He sleeps a whole lot and then I take him for a walk three times a day," owner John McKiski said. But the council at Monty's Clear Lake condominium complex wants him gone. "No dogs over 30 pounds (are allowed)," McKiski said.
Becker & Poliakoff Urges South Florida Cities to Follow New FEMA Debris Removal Guidelines for Gated Communities

Fred Pilot sent this link to a press release from big HOA law firm...

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla., Nov. 2 /PRNewswire/ -- Becker & Poliakoff, P.A., a diversified commercial law firm based in Ft. Lauderdale and a leader in community association law statewide, has urged more than 200 municipal officials throughout ten South Florida counties impacted by Hurricane Wilma to follow new guidelines of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and remove debris from gated communities in their cities.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Radburn board told to install democratic rule; State orders open meetings, votes for homeowners group

From Don Nordeen comes this major event regarding the granddaddy of American HOAs, developed in 1928, the community of Radburn in New Jersey...

FAIR LAWN - The board of trustees that runs the historic Radburn community must adopt open meetings and elections, and provide an appeals process for resolving disputes, according to state officials who have gotten involved in a battle between the board and a group of homeowners. The Radburn Association, the non-profit corporation that governs the community, must provide residents with "the statutory rights afforded all owners in homeowners associations," according to a letter sent to the association in August by Edward Hannaman, the head of the Association Regulation unit of the state Department of Community Affairs.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Village Leaders Contemplate Assessment Increase

Nancy Levy found this example of public/private government line-blurring. Looks like the munical government operates out of office space owned by the association--if I'm reading it right.

BELLA VISTA -- Audience members applauded Thursday when the Property Owners Association's Board of Directors voted to move forward with the renovation of the Bella Vista Country Club building.The clubhouse, which closed to regular business Aug. 1, 2002, will be converted into administrative offices, a small restaurant and common area with seating.General Manager Tommy Bailey hopes the work will be completed by January 2007. The building will serve as offices for several administrative departments, freeing Town Center office space for the Bella Vista Fire Department and the Bella Vista Division of the Benton County Sheriff's Office.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Man killed by deer in one of the ritziest gated communities on Earth
A Fairbanks Ranch man died this week after a violent encounter with a buck that was roaming the exclusive gated neighborhood. On Sept. 25, Ron Dudek went into his back yard to pick tomatoes when he unexpectedly came upon a 6-foot-tall deer next to his house. The buck hit him with its antlers in the face, tearing a hole in his cheek and shoving the bony antler into his mouth.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

10ft snake popped out of lavatories at block of flats

How inhospitable of these residents. The poor snake was no doubt just trying to get warm. :-)
WHEN residents in a block of flats saw a 10ft boa constrictor slithering from their lavatory bowls, their claims were treated with scepticism. They resorted to placing bricks on lavatory lids after the snake put in several surprise appearances. Now the flat-owners have been vindicated: one brave resident trapped the giant reptile during a night-time confrontation in his bathroom. He managed to coax the snake, named Keith, into a bin, ending a two-month reign of terror at the flats in West Didsbury, Manchester.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Private school teacher fired for refusing to display flag
Here's a switch. Private HOAs ban flag display, get bad press. Private school mandates flag display, gets bad press.

"I had come to the end of all the procedures of appeal available to me," [Stephen] Kobasa, 57, said Friday. He said his deep-seated religious belief, not un-American sentiments, was at the core of his opposition to having the flag in the classroom. "The crucifix cancels all flags," said Kobasa, a longtime peace activist. "Christ speaks of compassion without boundaries. ...Flags are about separation, assertions of superiority and aggression. The whole notion that loyalty to country is connected to one's religious faith is totally bizarre and unjustified."

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Edmund N. Bacon, city planner, dies at 95

Bacon was a pretty aggressive planner who had few qualms about advocating major urban redevelopment in Philadelphia, even when it required knocking down a lot of existing buildings. These days people with ambitious plans like that encounter organized preservationists who are determined to keep the old buildings because of their alleged historical significance or because they are deemed essential to the identity existing neighborhoods. Or something.

PHILADELPHIA --Edmund N. Bacon, a renowned city planner whose vision transformed postwar Philadelphia and whose influence continued to shape the look and feel of the nation's fifth-largest city, died Friday. He was 95. Bacon, whose children include actor Kevin Bacon, died of natural causes at his home in Philadelphia, according to a statement from the family.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Auditor: City of Detroit may go broke
This keeps things in perspective, doesn't it? In other news, Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick appeared in public recently without his diamond ear stud.

With a dwindling tax base, a recalcitrant union work force, and pension and health care benefits it cannot afford, Detroit is running out of money and will not be able to pay its bills if major changes aren't made, according to a report released Thursday by Detroit Auditor General Joe Harris. "The truth is that Detroit's treasury is hemorrhaging," said Harris, whose 10-year term as an independent city auditor appointed by the City Council ends in November. "Insolvency is certain. The only question is the timing."

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Let's put that Kelo decision in perspective...
I've been critical of the USSC decision in Kelo v. City of New London that allowed the use of eminent domain for increasing tax revenue...but this link sent by Nancy Levy shows you eminent domain Russian style. Kind of makes you glad we live in the USA...

Unrelenting in his resolution to purge the banks of the Moskva River of deluxe country houses erected, as he claims, without construction permits, top Natural Resources official Oleg Mitvol has come up with a new plan, no less controversial than his earlier initiatives. He has suggested the developments be washed away by artificially induced floods.

Monday, October 10, 2005

California Association of Realtors Common Interest Development Committee
Fred Pilot ran across this meeting agenda. Did you know the CAR had a CID committee? Look at the detail pertaining to CIDs in California and the recent legislation.
WAVE 3 TV Louisville, KY :: Condo Residents Stop Paying Fees To Protest Poor Living Conditions
Nancy Levy sent this amazing example of an assessment strike. I haven't seen one of these in some time.

(LOUISVILLE) -- People living in one Kentuckiana condominium say their homes are falling apart, and basic services being cut off. They blame it all on the property managers. But as WAVE 3 Investigator Eric Flack reports, their way of protesting may be the problem...more than half of Shadowood residents have stopped paying their condo fees in protest. The delinquency list is at $56,000 and counting.

"Governor Schwarzenegger Signs Legislation to Benefit Senior Citizens and Veterans"...but we know it was about HOAs!
The ever-alert Fred Pilot ran across this interesting political spin on the HOA legislation signed by Der Governator last week.
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger announced today he has signed legislation that will benefit California's senior citizens and veterans by strengthening the rights of residents in retirement communities, increasing the ability of veterans to buy homes and promoting greater transparency and fairness in homeowners associations.

Record low for home affordability in California
I just got back from southern California, which is why I haven't been posting since last week. Housing prices and commuting times are both insane.

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Soaring prices in California's housing market have shut out a record 86 percent of households from buying a typical home with a traditional down-payment, according to a study released on Thursday. Home prices across California have more than doubled since late 2001, increasing pressure on home buyers, who needed a minimum household income of $133,800 to buy a home at the August median price of $568,890, the California Association of Realtors said in its report.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Acrappleface: President Hints at Alan Greenspan Replacement

"I can't give you a name," Mr. Bush told the White House press corps, "but let me just say that I've known her personally for more than 20 years, and have first-hand knowledge of her philosophy on fiscal policy. I've actually watched her balance a checkbook at the kitchen table. She'll make a swell Fed chairman."

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Governance of Property Owners Associations
Here is Don Nordeen's new weblog on this topic.
Governor signs bills protecting members of homeowner associations
Fred Pilot passed this along. A big event in the Golden State...

Homeowner associations will be required to use secret ballots when electing board members or imposing levy increases, under a bill signed Monday by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. The bill, authored by Sen. Jim Battin, R-Palm Desert, stemmed from complaints from homeowners who said some associations require identification in elections that can lead to unwanted lobbying or even intimidation by fellow members. Homeowner associations will be required to make financial and other important records available to members under legislation from Assemblyman Dave Jones, D-Sacramento, that was also signed by the governor. Finally, the governor signed a bill from Sen. Denise Ducheny, D-San Diego, that prevents homeowners' associations from using foreclosure when a homeowner owes less than $1,800 in assessments.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

More states have enacted construction-defect statutes that can benefit you...
...if you are a developer or contractor--if you are an owner...well, maybe you might feel differently about these laws. Thanks to Nancy Levy for this article from a roofers publication.

During the past three years, about half the U.S. states have enacted so-called "construction-defect" or "right-to-cure" statutes. These statutes, which apply almost exclusively to residential construction (with Colorado and Tennessee being exceptions), are intended to try to reduce the amount of construction litigation by providing contractors with notice and a right to correct alleged construction defects before homeowners or condominium associations file suit.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Study: Sun's Changes to Blame for Part of Global Warming
Somebody tell Al Gore about this...

Increased output from the Sun might be to blame for 10 to 30 percent of global warming that has been measured in the past 20 years, according to a new report. Increased emissions of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases still play a role, the scientists say. But climate models of global warming should be corrected to better account for changes in solar activity, according to Nicola Scafetta and Bruce West of Duke University.

New Orleans returnees face health risks--Contaminated water, mold among problems

Contaminated water, mold and the dusty sediment left behind when the city was pumped dry are some of the key health threats facing residents, according to Dr. Frederick Cerise, the head of the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005 - News - Cemetery Plots Are Orlando's Newest Land Rush
A little irony noted by Nancy Levy in this headline and the subhead, which reads, "Plots Selling Faster Than Downtown Condos."

SOUTH FLORIDA: Condo ombudsman opens office in Broward County
From Fred Pilot by way of Patrick's HOA News comes this story about Virgil Rizzo setting up shop in condo-heavy Broward County, Florida. Are there any hanging chads involved?

Florida's condominium ombudsman now has an office in South Florida, home to more condos than any other area in the state. And for the first time, Virgil Rizzo also has a Broward County phone number, 954-202-3234, so callers no longer have to call Tallahassee to reach him, something many owners were reluctant to do.
Citizens tout neighborhood bill of rights
Nancy Levy sent this piece along, and it makes for fascinating reading.

A proposed “neighborhood bill of rights” is getting a warm reception from Santa Fe residents fed up with what they say are unanticipated developments, unwarranted infill and “rogue commerce” in their neighborhoods . The Public Works Committee on Monday endorsed the proposal after a dozen people, many of them officers in local neighborhood associations, spoke in favor of it... This resolution, sponsored by four of the eight councilors, says each neighborhood has a right to: Determine its own character and quality of life. Be a safe, healthy place to live and raise families. Have an equitable share of city services and capital improvements. Have adequate notice and timely information on decisions affecting it. Have input into city decisions affecting it. Have the city protect residents’ fiscal and “emotional” investments. The resolution would direct city staff to ensure neighborhoods and developers get equal consideration in the development-review process, to assist neighborhoods in developing plans, to determine their character and needs, and to enforce all sections of city code that protect residents against hazards and nuisances.

Monster Mold Threatens Health in the South
This is a huge problem in the best of conditions. Imagine it in the aftermath of two monster hurricanes.

Mold now forms an interior version of kudzu in the soggy South, posing health dangers that will make many homes tear-downs and will force schools and hospitals to do expensive repairs. It's a problem that any homeowner who has ever had a flooded basement or a leaky roof has faced. But the magnitude of this problem leaves many storm victims prey to unscrupulous or incompetent remediators. Home test kits for mold, for example, are worthless, experts say.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Existing home sales rise in August

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Sales of existing U.S. homes rose 2 percent in August to the second highest level on record, a trade group said on Monday. Sales of previously owned homes increased to a seasonally adjusted 7.29 million unit annual rate last month from July's downwardly revised 7.15 million unit pace, the National Association of Realtors said. That figure includes both single-family homes and condominiums.

Ruckus over tape recordings disrupt homeowners association
Nancy Levy sent this slice of HOA life, about a man who was arrested for having the temerity to audiotape an HOA meeting. To those folks who keep asking me how an HOA is any different than a normal city, I reply: show me one guy who got arrested for taping a city council meeting. Why on earth any municipal police department would do the bidding of these HOA mucky-mucks I'll never know. Read the justification given for this ridiculous policy and then tell me we don't need major reform of this institution.

Feel free to take notes at Phoenix Pointe South Mountain Residential Association meetings, but be advised that recording them could have consequences. It did for board member Mike Harris, who says he was arrested. At the association's July 11 meeting, board members took the unusual step of calling Pointe South Mountain Resort security after one of their own ­ Harris. A board member for the past two years, Harris was removed from the premises after he refused to turn off his tape recorder just before the meeting began. The security in turn dispatched a Phoenix police officer who asked Harris to turn off the tape recorder. Still refusing to shut it off, Harris said he was placed under arrest and handcuffed...Association board vice president Jane Karkosky said she objects to being tape recorded out of fear that board members will have to spend time reviewing tapes of lengthy meetings and be weighed down by minutiae.

Fire Marshal's Office Completes Investigation Of Downtown Condo
Interesting situation, sent on by Nancy Levy. The article has links to previous items on the matter...

ORLANDO, Fla. -- The State Fire Marshall's Office completed its investigation into fire suppression water lines at The Grande condominiums in downtown Orlando.The investigation report found no reason to believe the underground water lines at the property were compromised during the building process. They also found that allegedly forged documents were not intentionally doctored to pass fire inspections. A former city inspector is currently suing the city of Orlando claiming she was fired for blowing the whistle on questionable fire inspections at the condos.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

It's Bush's fault!!
BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - Police found cases of food, clothing and tools intended for hurricane victims at the home of the chief administrative officer for a New Orleans suburb, authorities said Wednesday.Officers searched Cedric Floyd's home because of complaints that city workers were helping themselves to donations for hurricane victims. Floyd, who runs the day-to-day operations in the suburb of Kenner, was in charge of distributing the goods.
Real estate prices force Aspen Board of Realtors to move their office out of Aspen

I think this is one of the signs of the Apocalypse. And no, I didn't get this from The Onion.

ASPEN, Colo. --Sky high real estate prices in this resort city in the mountains have driven yet another business out of town: The Aspen Board of Realtors.The board was renting an office at the Aspen airport because of the cost of real estate in the city, where even a small house can cost $1 million. Now, the board has purchased a spacious office in Basalt, 10 miles from Aspen, said Brynne Kristan, executive vice president of the board. Kristan said the board had hoped to own its own office in Aspen: "We thought we'd be real estate owners ourselves," Kristan said.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Guardian: Hurricane aid used 'to test out rightwing social policies'
President Bush's multi-billion dollar reconstruction plans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina are being used as "a vast laboratory" for conservative social polices, administration critics claim. The White House strategy involves the suspension of a series of regulations guaranteeing the going local wage and affirmative action for minorities, while offering tax incentives for businesses in the affected region. Education aid for displaced children will include $500m (£276m) in vouchers for private schools, while a senior Republican has also proposed a new law permitting a wide-ranging waiver of environmental regulations.

Add to that a homeownership initiative that will involve zillions of condo and townhome units, all with private governments run by poor people with no education. Just what New Orleans needs.

We are looking at an effort to transform an entire city. I think the rhetoric is that they are taking probably the worst city-sized example of failed welfare state policies and using ideas from the Republican playbook to make it into a success. If this works, we will have a new paradigm for urban renewal. If it doesn't work--and I can think of one other Bush administration transformative effort that isn't going according to plan--then what? I suppose we will hear that having started we can't stop or even talk about stopping or changing course, because that will only embolden the terrorists. Oops. That's the other example.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Proposed subdivision sparks debate
Nancy Levy sends this interesting public/private controversy with lots of juicy details...
Homeowners up in arms over HOA: HOA say rules are to improve neighborhood
From Nancy Levy comes this saga of disgruntled HOA residents who say their HOA is turning them into Stepford people...

Kathy Krueger is fed up. The Sun City West resident says the Home Owners Association Board is turning her Sonora neighborhood of 182 homes into a "Stepford" enclave with clipboard-wielding monitors who check weekly for violators. "Our president and vice president keep imposing stricter covenants," said Ms. Krueger, who moved into her Maya Court home in 2002. "They are arbitrarily changing the rules." The Sonora HOA president, Ken Foley, denied the charges.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Critics Fear Trailer 'Ghettos': Right, Left Target FEMA Initiative
On the sprawling, dusty grounds of Lone Star Army Ammunition Plant and Red River Army Depot in Texarkana, Tex., the recreational vehicles and mobile homes are arriving at a rate of 100 a day before being shipped out to the fringes of Hurricane Katrina's disaster zone. Those trailers, among 300,000 to be purchased with nearly $5 billion of federal money, have become a focal point of criticism of the Bush administration's early rebuilding efforts.

With another hurricane bearing down on the region, putting people in trailers doesn't seem like a real great idea. In the long term, watch for the rebuilding of New Orleans to be a huge boon to developers who specialize in common interest housing. Condos, townhomes, HOPE VI-type mixed income developments--the sort of thing that the feds did to replace public housing projects in Chicago such as Cabrini Green.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

ScrappleFace: HUD Unveils New Orleans Housing Concept
As part of a White House PR offensive to refute charges that President George Bush doesn't care about poor black people, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) today unveiled a plan for rebuilding public housing in New Orleans that will ensure near-total evacuation of low-income residents in advance of future emergencies. An artist's rendering of the proposed new public housing complex shows what appears to be a vast train yard, with thousands of Amtrak cars refitted as charming family residences. At the end of each column of railcar-homes, the sketch shows several engines. "When the evacuation order comes," an unnamed HUD spokesman said, "the conductor hollers 'All aboard'. People get into their homes, and off we go." The HUD source said the idea was proposed by Mr. Bush himself. "Since the president takes the blame when people ignore evacuation orders, we're making it tougher to ignore them," said the spokesman. "Now, if you want to stay, that's fine...but your home is going to Chicago." Amtrak is a quasi-governmental agency whose mission is to transport taxpayer dollars out of federal coffers to an undisclosed location.

Too Stupid To Stay Out of Prison

Clayton Cramer has this entertaining item.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Is 1 head better than 4? Highlands Ranch weighs board merger

Nancy Levy sends this link to a Denver Post story on a large subdivision that is taking steps to consolidate its governance, moving closer to becoming a city:

Highlands Ranch - Leaders of the state's largest subdivision will consider asking residents whether to consolidate four governing boards into one. If voters approved such a proposal, the number of elected positions would be reduced from five for each of the four metro districts to a single entity of seven that would oversee the entire development of 81,000. The four Highlands Ranch boards will meet Sept. 27 to decide whether to begin the process that would lead to a public vote, possibly in May or November of next year. Each metro district is a quasi- government entity that can borrow money and oversee an array of public services - from road maintenance to fire protection - for its designated area.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

No end to row over BF gates -
Here is a fascinating story Fred Pilot found about government efforts to open the gates of a gated community in the Phillipines. Seems as though a city ordinance requires opening the gates but a court issued an injunction preventing enforcement of the ordinance, so the city is asking the court to reconsider the injunction.

THE PARAÑAQUE CITY GOVERNMENT has asked the court to allow it to fully execute the ordinance that authorized the opening of the main gates of BF Homes to the public.

Another crumbling old CID...
I keep harping on the time bomb issue, meaning that aging HOAs are going to increasingly find themselves facing some major life cycle problems. Things wear out, it costs a lot to fix them, and there is nobody but the owners to pay for it. Result: problems, conflicts, and financial challenges facing owners. Fred Pilot sent this story along:

Crystal Falls Lake is covered with algae. The subdivision's stables and clubhouse are run down with dry rot, bad roofs and chipping paint. Most property owners agree that the more than 50-year-old subdivision's amenities are in dire need of repair. What repairs to do first and how to pay for them, however, are the subject of an intensifying fight.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

After their "let them eat cake" attitude made national news, Ocala HOA apologizes for scrooge-like prohibition on taking in hurricane evacuees
Thanks to Fred Pilot for this follow-up. I always say there is nothing like bad press to make some HOA boards of directors improve their behavior, at least until the coverage dies down.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Suburban police blocked evacuees, witnesses say
Must be Bush's fault. Or, we could consider the increasingly obvious possibility that southern Louisiana has some of the worst local government officials on the planet Earth.

Police agencies to the south of New Orleans were so fearful of the crowds attempting to leave the city after Hurricane Katrina that they sealed a crucial bridge over the Mississippi River and turned back hundreds of desperate evacuees, according to two paramedics who were in the crowd. The paramedics and two other witnesses said officers sometimes shot guns over the heads of fleeing people, who, instead of complying immediately with orders to leave the bridge, pleaded to be let through, according to the paramedics and two other witnesses. The witnesses said that they had been told by New Orleans police to cross this same bridge because buses were waiting for them there. Instead, a suburban police officer angrily ordered about 200 people to abandon an encampment between the highways near the bridge. The officer then confiscated their food and water, the four witnesses said. The incidents took place in the first days after the storm last week, they said

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Guilty plea made in housing case
From Nancy Levy--major crime in Privatopia...

Former real estate agent Phil Benson pleaded guilty Wednesday to 24 counts of mail and wire fraud in connection with the illegal conversion of apartments to condominiums in Huntington Beach. Benson, 73, of Hayden, Idaho, will be sentenced Feb. 6 along with former Mayor Pam Houchen and two others who also pleaded guilty to fraud last week. They were among eight real estate professionals and investors indicted by a federal grand jury in December for their involvement in a scheme to convert apartment buildings to condos using forged documents.

Attorney general weighs in on nixing Columbia Council
Interesting interaction between public and private government, forwarded by Nancy Levy. I am impressed that a public official took the time to opine on this issue, because I see so many examples of a hands-off approach that leaves associations to their own devices.

Doing away with the Columbia Council will not make it more difficult for elected Columbia Association officials to communicate with residents, according to a letter of advice from the office of Maryland's attorney general. The Aug. 18 letter from Robert A. Zarnoch, Maryland's assistant attorney general, addresses a Columbia Association board of directors' proposal to eliminate its role as the council. "In my view, the proposed elimination of the Columbia Council would not prevent the free exchange of views between CA directors and village residents," Zarnoch wrote in his letter. "Nor would it alter the directors' existing duty of loyalty to CA, their trustee responsibility with respect to CA members, or their obligation with respect to nondisclosure of confidential information."

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Marion County HOA Neighborhood Won't Allow Hurricane Evacuees
Fred Pilot sent along this story about your friendly neighborhood HOA that using the CC&Rs to squelch any outpouring of generosity on the part of its residents:

Deeds aren't the only thing restricted in one Southwest Marion County community, as residents learned over the weekend that they won't be able to house hurricane evacuees who fled from the Gulf Coast. Citizens at each home in Majestic Oaks subdivision near Ocala received flyers on Saturday reminding them of the community's by-laws, which also explained that housing evacuees would be a violation of those rules. The flyers were distributed by the community's Homeowners Association Board of Directors after its members learned that a minister who lives in the neighborhood planned on housing families from the Gulf Coast.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Housing Slowdown Could Spell Trouble
Oh, could. For a lot of folks with interest-only and variable-rate loans.

WASHINGTON - The nation's red-hot housing market may finally be nearing its peak, meaning the end of double-digit annual percentage price gains for homeowners and potential trouble for more recent purchasers who stretched to buy... In July, sales of existing homes fell by 2.6 percent even though the nationwide median price rose to a record $218,000. Homes in some areas are staying on the market longer before they sell and the Mortgage Bankers Association reports that its index of demand for home mortgages now stands 11 percent below a June peak.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Yahoo! News Photo: aerial view of buses not used to evacuate poor folks in New Orleans by Mayor who blames it all on Bush
Somewhere along the line I'd like to see if we could get a straight answer as to why some 500 municipal and school buses were not use to evacuate people who did not have private transportation in advance of the hurricane. Just asking...

An aerial view of flooded school buses in a lot, Thursday, Sept. 1, 2005, in New Orleans, LA. The flood is a result of Hurricane Katrina that passed through the area last Monday.(AP Photo/Phil Coale)
Vanished, Under Force of Time and an Inconstant Earth

This one gets pretty close to profound...
Nothing lasts forever. Just ask Ozymandias, or Nate Fisher. Only the wind inhabits the cliff dwellings at Mesa Verde in Colorado, birds and vines the pyramids of the Maya. Sand and silence have swallowed the clamors of frankincense traders and camels in the old desert center of Ubar. Troy was buried for centuries before it was uncovered. Parts of the Great Library of Alexandria, center of learning in the ancient world, might be sleeping with the fishes, off Egypt's coast in the Mediterranean. "Cities rise and fall depending on what made them go in the first place," said Peirce Lewis, an expert on the history of New Orleans and an emeritus professor of geography at Pennsylvania State University.
Katrina could prompt new black "great migration" - Yahoo! News
HOUSTON (Reuters) - If refugees end up building new lives away from New Orleans, Hurricane Katrina may prompt the largest U.S. black resettlement since the 20th century's Great Migration lured southern blacks to the North in a search for jobs and better lives. Interviews with refugees in Houston, which is expecting many thousands of evacuees to remain, suggest that thousands of blacks who lost everything and had no insurance will end up living in Texas or other U.S. states.

Katrina's wrath spares some, not all the affluent
From Fred Pilot, who notes that Privatopia took a hit. When I was at a gated communities conference at the University of New Orleans last year, we toured a couple of such places. One was called something like English Retreat, and the other was in or near Metairie.
METAIRIE, Louisiana (Reuters) - While the poor black neighborhoods of New Orleans suffered the most visible destruction from Hurricane Katrina, even affluent suburbs did not escape the wrath of the storm. Metairie, about 10 miles east of New Orleans on the shores of Lake Pontchartrain, has a predominantly white, middle and upper crust population living in spacious, comfortable homes. While parts of the suburb escaped major damage, other areas of Metairie remained under three to four feet of flood waters on Monday. Some residents said they expected their homes to be a complete loss.

Justices (except Souter) pay tribute to Rehnquist
(CNN) -- The Supreme Court released statements by seven Supreme Court justices who paid tribute to Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, who died Saturday. A statement from Justice David Souter is not expected, the court said.

I wonder why Souter is tongue-tied. It shouldn't be hard to say something on an occasion like this. Stevens, Ginsburg, and Breyer made gracious statements. Why not the other liberal as well?

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Homeowners Groups Fight to Stay Afloat
Tremendous piece of reporting from the Washington Post, sent by Fred Pilot.

When communities such as Hidden Lake were built, a homeowners association seemed like a great idea: Residents would chip in for the upkeep of what then was a summer community. Today, however, Hidden Lake is a full-fledged Washington suburb, with residents too busy to volunteer and facing problems beyond their expertise. The community's governing documents have expired -- jeopardizing its authority -- and the neighborhood is at war over what could be a $500,000 bill to repair the community dam. Hidden Lake's problems mirror those cropping up at first-generation, association-run communities across the country as they deal with aging infrastructure and outdated or poorly written covenants that make it impossible to enforce rules, increase dues to cover rising costs or resolve disputes.

City Councilman Unearths Magical Zoning Amulet

Mystery Reader sends this post from The Onion that just about says it all about zoning. I just got back from the American Political Science Association annual meeting in Washington, DC, which is why I haven't been posting. There were 7000 people waiting to use about six computers. I'm co-charing the urban politics sections panels for next year's conference in Philadelphia. Think there will be one on homeowner associations? Book it.

ROCHESTER, NY—After years spent poring over mysterious and arcane plat sheets and deciphering long-forgotten building codes, city councilmember Mike LaMere unearthed the mysterious City Zoning Amulet Friday. "Behold!" LaMere said, holding aloft the solid-gold amulet, which is emblazoned with the Ever-Evaluating Eye of Surr-Vey, Lord Of Demarcation, He Who Measures And Assesses. "With this sigil, the power of zoning comes. Through me, the power of zoning flows! All will behold my power, and I shall bow to no man when designating matter-of-right developments for major retail and office spaces to a maximum lot occupancy of 75 percent for residential use!"

Saturday, August 27, 2005

US heading for house price crash, Greenspan tells buyers

Thanks for finally saying what has been obvious for the last year or so. Do you think the folks who are still buying $600,000 condos with interest only loans are listening?

WALL STREET shuddered yesterday after Alan Greenspan, the United States’ central banker, warned American homebuyers that they risk a crash if they continue to drive property prices higher. He said that the US house-price spiral had become an economic imbalance, threatening stability like the country’s trade gap or its budget deficit.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Gated Summerlin community is shocked by armed robbery

Fred Pilot sent this link.

With gated neighborhoods already numerous around the valley, and more going up all the time, recent developments in the posh Siena golf course community in Summerlin might serve as a reality check. A man who stepped out of his Siena house on Cerotto Lane a little before 3 p.m. on Aug. 9 was robbed at gunpoint while walking to his mailbox. The victim and investigators surmised that the robber must have gotten into Siena by following a resident through one of the unguarded mechanical gates.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

White House Deed Up for Auction.
Canadian Writer Discovers Original White House Deed Never Signed

From Fred Pilot, who is always on the lookout for a bargain. The deed is now for sale on EBay.

While doing research for his new book Night of the Realtors , Vancouver novelist David Jenneson discovered that the U.S. Government has no deed recording the property ownership for 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue – perhaps it never existed Jenneson's exhaustive inquiry revealed any valid transfer should have been signed and recorded in the early 1790s when George Washington himself ordered the purchase of the parcel from David Burnes, the farmer whom Washington personally referred to as the “obstinate Mr. Burnes.” A written request to the U.S. National Archives, the repository for records of that time, revealed startling results. After a thorough search, the National Archives could not find the deed for the White House!

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Existing Home Sales Decline As Rates Rise

WASHINGTON - Sales of previously owned homes fell in July as some house hunters were put off by galloping prices, but the pace of sales was still the third-highest ever, suggesting the red-hot market isn't cooling much. The latest snapshot of activity in the housing market released by the National Association of Realtors on Tuesday showed that July sales of existing homes — including single-family, town homes and condominiums — totaled 7.16 million units at a seasonally adjusted annual rate. That represented a 2.6 percent decline from June's record-high pace of 7.35 million units. Soaring home prices and to a lesser extent rising mortgage rates played a role in July's drop in sales — making it harder for some house hunters to take the leap into home ownership, analysts said.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Castle Holds Monty Python Jamboree
This must be one of the more fun-loving medieval gated communities. Do you smell elderberries?

Coconut shells have been a fixture behind the castle reception desk for a number of years, props for the legions of Monty Python fans who visit Doune, a key location for the film Monty Python And The Holy Grail...Last year, Historic Scotland bowed to the inevitable and staged Doune's first ever Monty Python Day, an event that attracted about 1,500 fans from all over the UK, and some from overseas, including a hen party from New York. The event was so successful that it is being repeated on September 4. Numbers have had to be limited to 500, however, after problems last year shepherding so many fans around such a confined space.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

San Francisco Shuns Retired USS Iowa
This has nothing to do with HOAs. I just think it is such a supremely disgraceful action by the San Francisco city supervisors that it deserves to be publicized and condemned. Who do these creeps think they are, to sit in their little leftist enclave and pass a petty, nasty little judgment like this on the United States military? Maybe it's time that professional organizations planning conventions started boycotting San Francisco.

The USS Iowa joined in battles from World War II to Korea to the Persian Gulf. It carried President Franklin Roosevelt home from the Teheran conference of allied leaders, and four decades later, suffered one of the nation's most deadly military accidents. Veterans groups and history buffs had hoped that tourists in San Francisco could walk the same teak decks where sailors dodged Japanese machine-gun fire and fired 16-inch guns that helped win battles across the South Pacific. Instead, it appears that the retired battleship is headed about 80 miles inland, to Stockton, a gritty agricultural port town on the San Joaquin River and home of California's annual asparagus festival. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., a former San Francisco mayor, helped secure $3 million to tow the Iowa from Rhode Island to the Bay Area in 2001 in hopes of making touristy Fisherman's Wharf its new home. But city supervisors voted 8-3 last month to oppose taking in the ship, citing local opposition to the Iraq war and the military's stance on gays, among other things.
With SB 137, making changes to HOAs

Marjorie Murray wrote this article on an important piece of legislation pending in Sacramento. It was published in the Sacramento Bee. She asked me to publish this so all you activists out there can keep track of this bill and do what is needed to get it passed.

SB 137 would leash homeowner associations that leap to use foreclosure to collect trivial amounts of late assessments owed homeowner associations (HOAs). The proposed law is long overdue.
Sen. Denise Ducheny's legislation would lay out a set of legal tools that HOAs, collection agencies, management companies and law firms could use to collect the dues assessed the 8 million California homeowners living in common interest developments such as condominiums. The tools would include going to small claims court, securing the debt with a lien or invoking dispute resolution. SB 137 is linked to AB 619, which would let homeowners pay a late bill in installments. Current law lets HOAs - without giving a reason - reject a homeowner's petition to pay arrearages on a monthly schedule. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed AB 2598, last year's attempt to curb HOA foreclosure abuse. But his veto message made plain he thinks this issue needs to be resolved. Ducheny and the California Alliance for Retired Americans, sponsor of SB 137, have been working with the governor's office to do just that.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Rampant mismanagement plagues condo boards, report finds

You can just imagine how shocked I was--shocked, I tell you--to read this. Thanks to Fred Pilot for the link.

Did I mention that I was shocked?

Most of the 4,000 queries received by the state's new condo ombudsman between April 1 and June 30 involved directors of associations, according to a newly released report. Half concerned mismanagement and about a quarter alleged abuse of residents by directors. "The major problem continues to be the incapability and inability of boards' members to properly manage the operation of the association," said Dr. Virgil Rizzo of Fort Lauderdale, who was appointed in December and who released the quarterly report this week. "Many directors lack the knowledge to effectively and successfully operate a corporation of residential units."
From David Bernstein at the Volokh Conspiracy...
...comes this short, pithy, and alarming analysis of the housing bubble in California.

Friday, August 19, 2005

OK, I'll have my light sabre now, if you please
A team of researchers from the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) has successfully demonstrated, for the first time, that it is possible to control the speed of light – both slowing it down and speeding it up – in an optical fiber, using off-the-shelf instrumentation in normal environmental conditions. Their results, to be published in the August 22 issue of Applied Physics Letters, could have implications that range from optical computing to the fiber-optic telecommunications industry.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Re/Max Site to Show All U.S. Listings
The implications of this are mind-boggling. Buying and selling real estate has always been based on local markets. This is the end of all that. Brave New World time.

The nation's second-largest real estate brokerage is expected to announce today a plan to pool all U.S. residential property listings on its website, a move that would create a formidable national competitor to industry-backed The move by Re/Max International Inc. also could eventually help reduce consumers' costs of buying and selling homes, as competition with other Web-based brokerages heats up.Online real estate companies and consumer advocates have long complained about the real estate industry's efforts to limit access to property listings on the Internet. They see it as an attempt to thwart competition from Web-based upstarts, which typically charge lower commissions or charge referral fees. The issue has attracted the attention of federal antitrust officials, who have been investigating the online policy of the industry's powerful trade group, the National Assn. of Realtors, which gives its members the right to withhold their listings from online brokerages. But Re/Max, which has supported the trade group's policy, will announce today that it will compete head-on with online companies and create a national database that would include any property listing, whether it is a Re/Max listing or not.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Pasco: Hudson man cited for size of profane sign
This is a Florida story. Nice to see the city government acting like an HOA in this case.
HUDSON - A 43-year-old man was cited Tuesday for painting a sign that reads "Die you miserable bitch" on a house he owns, Pasco County sheriff's deputies said. A neighbor dying of cancer, 73-year-old Carol Hastrich, is believed by her family to be the subject of the message, deputies said. The words were spray-painted in black on the side of the house facing Hastrich's front yard. But it was not the meaning of the message that led to Derick Cooper's citation. Deputies told Hastrich's family the message did not violate any laws, her daughter Dea Albertson said Wednesday. Instead, Cooper was cited for an illegal sign because the wording exceeded the permitted size for a sign in a residential area, Pasco Code Enforcement Officer Patrick Phillips said.

Rockin' the suburbs:
Homeowners associations have the power of government--but what about the accountability?

I didn't write that headline. The newspaper did. This is a story sent on by Marjorie Murray, the legislative advocate on CID housing issues for the California Alliance for Retired Americans. She adds, "Evan -- please post this on your blog. Our two pieces of legislation described in this story -- SB 137 and AB 1098
-- will shortly be sent to the floor for a vote. Don
Chaney's court hearing is August 26th in Auburn, CA
(Placer County.)"

The article describes Don Chaney's lawsuit, which is significant in itself, but then goes on to talk about pending reform legislation, and the larger context of HOAs generally. It's well worth reading.

...two proposed laws making their way to floor votes in the Legislature would do much the same thing. An Assembly bill, sponsored by Dave Jones, D-Sacramento, outlines more clearly what kinds of financial documents homeowners associations would be required to cough up if a member requests them, and also specifies that a homeowner can take an association to small-claims court rather than the more costly Superior Court. A second effort, by Senator Denise Ducheny, D-San Diego, seeks to restrict how homeowners associations are able to foreclose on a home. The proposed changes to state law, which would affect some 9 million Californians, were spearheaded by an unlikely group: retirees.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Supreme Court upholds convictions, sentences of Richard Glassel
Fred Pilot sent this link. Richard Glassel received the death sentence in Arizona for killing two people in an HOA-related dispute. His conviction and death sentence have now been affirmed by the Arizona Supreme Court. Some people have tried to argue that his BOD is to blame for driving him nuts, which I don't buy.
Residents facing light woes:Burden of funding light bill falls to parish homeowners

I think this is from Louisiana. Fred Pilot sent it. I have no idea how he finds this stuff.

SLIDELL-Though the street lights are burning bright now, residents moving to new subdivisions in St. Tammany will have to decide whether its worth paying the electric bill to keep them on. That's the problem currently facing Ashton Oaks subdivision, located in the Slidell-area, St. Tammany Parish Councilman Barry Bagert said. With three phases up and a fourth almost finished, developers will soon turn electric payments for street lamps over to a homeowner's association that does not have enough members to cover costs.

Cost for Bahia dredging now tops $16 million
Assessments push price tag higher for homeowners

Fred Pilot sent this tale of woe from Marin County.
Stuck in bureaucratic limbo, residents of the Bahia neighborhood in northwest Novato are watching the price tag of a court-ordered dredging project continue to climb. Homeowners recently learned the cost of the project had more than doubled. Now, the estimated cost has jumped another $1.2 million - to $16.7 million. The new figure comes from a $90,000 assessment for households directly on the lagoon, and $45,000 for property owners off the lagoon.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

The Volokh Conspiracy - Ken Karst on John Roberts-
Ken Karst was one of my constitutional law professors way back when dinosaurs ruled the earth. I will always remember him as a brilliant teacher and distinguished scholar (not unusual at UCLA Law School), a very liberal fellow politically (also not unusual there) and one of the kindest folks you will ever meet (highly unusual at UCLA Law School). Here, from the Volokh Conspiracy, is his take on Judge John Roberts. Follow the link and read it all if you have time.

I am one of those liberal law academics whom Justice Scalia sometimes blames for the Supreme Court's straying from the True Path. Even so, I believe the Senate should confirm Judge Roberts's nomination.

Monday, August 08, 2005

All Eyes on Home Market in San Diego - Yahoo! News
Did I hear a "pop" just now?

Once Southern California's hottest real estate market, San Diego is feeling a real estate slowdown. It's a trend also starting to be seen in other regions, such as Las Vegas, Denver, Boston and Washington, D.C. Dramatic rises in home prices, particularly on the West and East coasts, have sparked a nationwide debate about whether the housing market is engulfed in a bubble that is about to burst. San Diego has become a focal point of that discussion. Those who believe the market is about to implode say San Diego's cooling could be among the first signs of a pronounced downturn or even a possible crash in California. But housing industry leaders say the slowing in San Diego reflects the normal damping of a sizzling market that made millionaires out of many homeowners and investors. Because San Diego was the region's hottest market, it's not surprising that it's one of the first to simmer down and return to more normal conditions, they say.